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Photographing Strangers for Class - Update

Discussion in 'People' started by seabee1999, Sep 24, 2008.

  1. I am not that fond of photographing people I know well much less stangers. I get nervous really quick. As some know, I am taking online classes for BFA in photography through AAU in San Fran. Well this week's assignment is photographing strangers. So my question for you all here is how should I (or would you) approach assignment? Any help and advice would be useful.

    God Bless,
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2008
  2. oddstray


    Jul 29, 2007
    San Diego
    Generally, I don't photograph strangers. I'm an intensely private person, and I hesitate to intrude on anyone else's privacy. And, I don't want to ever deal with publishing someone's image without permission. So, I would photograph strangers (1) in silhouette, and/or (2) in very abstract composition so that the individual was not recognizable.


    Apr 30, 2005
    Sounds like a perfect assignment for street photography. Go into the city or a large public gathering and look for interesting compositions of everyday life. You have a very good eye, let your imagination run wild. :) 

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  4. tamplum


    Feb 15, 2008
    Take a drive to Reno. Or Tahoe. You can be pretty anonymous and get some pretty good "street shots" there. Most of the time after 8 pm on the strip, lol no one will notice anyways.
  5. Thanks for all the suggestions. The Reno idea popped in my head earlier before reading your post Tam. Thank you for suggesting it. I will see if indeed I can do that. RFC, thanks for sharing your shots. Indeed I will try looking for street candids and everyday life shots as well. The silhoutte idea in intriging as well.

    God Bless,
  6. Unlike most people, I enjoy approaching strangers and photographing them.

    1 - Be yourself. People can sense if you are putting on an act and will be suspicious.
    2 - If you see someone that you want to photograph, do stalk them. Once you see them and make your decision, be direct and go right up to them.
    3 - Flattery will get you everywhere. If you like their hat, shoes, the way they sitting, what ever drew you to them, compliment them on it.
    4 - Alternatively, ask a question like "what's up with..." and get them talking
    5 - Once you've initiated a conversation and they can see that you're a genuine person, ask if you can take some photos.
    6 - Once you've got a couple, show them the LCD. Chances are your photos of them are far better than the ones that others have taken. Given that, they may be willing to have more taken and you may be able to direct them into better light.
    7 - Use good judgement, if the person seems like they are in a rush, don't delay them.
    8 - A good place to start is with people involved in an activity. You can make eye contact and point to your camera and smile.
    9 - In many locations there's a person that I call "The Mayor" They are the person that knows everyone and everyone talks to (go into any Starbucks and you'll see what I mean). If you can connect with this person, they will connect with all of their "consitiuents"

    That should get you started. Post some shots.
  7. Great advice from Jeff. Flattery WILL get you everywhere. People love to be complimented on almost everything. It's easier with practice, and I just KNOW you're going to do great!!
  8. This is simple! You're making it harder than it's actually going to be to complete the assignment.

    Step one, pack up gear and make sure you have batteries and memory.
    Step two, find people.
    Step three, point the camera at said people.
    Step four, click away until you get enough shots to sort through for class.

    Repeat as necessary.

    Seriously though, with the gear you have, you'll be fine. If you don't want to be up close and personal, take out the 300 2.8, set up 50-100 feet away from your targets and fire away!!

    Check here for some examples...

    Good luck.
  9. A couple more things that I thought of

    The trick to photographing stranges is to indentify what you find interesting about them. So when you give a compliment, make sure it is genuine. Also you will likely be asked why you are taking the photos. Since you are taking them for a class, tell that so and let them know they're doing you a favor. Most people like to be helpful.

    Lastly, and very importantly, if someone asks for a copy, get the contact information and send one to them. It's a small effort and gift you can give them for their time.
  10. Thanks guys. This might be easy for some, but for me this is really, really hard. I have confidence in my phtography skills, just my approach in the subject is hard. These suggestions really help in determining a course of action.

    God Bless,
  11. Not to take anything away from Keith or his approach, but you really get so much more out of the experience if you connect with your subjects. Even on days when the photos I've taken haven't pleased me, I still enjoy remembering the people that I've met.
  12. As the commercial says… Just do it.

    As the commercial says… Just do it...

    "Well this week's assignment is photographing strangers. So my question for you all here is how should I (or would you) approach assignment? Any help and advice would be useful."

    There are two ways you can go about it, one is to ask and the other to just point and shoot - I'd point and shoot.

    Here is a link that answers such a questions, on how to do it... The articles has links to other people answering the same questions by the way.

    The Link: Street Photography 101 by The Dude
  13. I really want to say thank you for everyones help. It was greatly appreciated. The assignment for my class was, for me, extremely difficult. There were too many moments where I locked up and simply walked away from shooting that day. I was able to get the assignmnet done (10 photos of stangers). I am not proud of any of the shots and I really don't want to put my name behind them. Some came out out of focus and some were just in horrible light. I won't post any shots here for the public. If you want to see what I did, PM me and I'll forward you a link later this evening. I am the kind of guy who takes photos to get away from people. Taking shots of people was too hard for me at this time of my life. In fact I contimplated accepted a 0% grade for this assignment. I'll leave that kind of photography to those who do it best. I'll gladly stick to nature, landscapes and other types of shots for now. Maybe later I'll take the challenge of photographing people again.

    God Bless,
  14. I agree with you, but not knowing the particulars about the class assignment, there's no right or wrong response to the request for ideas. Is a connection with your subject always necessary? I don't think so, but mostly because I like photographing people being themselves. If you strike up a conversation with someone that would like to be photographed, and they can maintain a natural feel about them, great - most times that's not the case. I would rather shoot, even if it meant waiting for a little while to get the shot that I want. I may approach someone after shooting a few shots of them and show them one. If they like it and seem to approve, I may show them others. If they don't approve, I delete the "one" photo that I showed them right in front of them. Deceptive, yes - but it works. :biggrin:

    Sorry to hear that you're not happy with the shots you were able to capture. Photographing strangers is not for everyone. You've got IM...
  15. tamplum


    Feb 15, 2008
    David: I am sorry you had trouble with this assignment. Take heart in that when in your element, your pictures are great and hopefully, this will be a one time situation for you. I hope you learned a few things from this exercise and took something away from it. This way your discomfort was not in vain. :) 
  16. David, I can completely understand what you are saying. I have had a heck of a time trying to step up and take candid shots of strangers sitting, walking, working whatever. This problem of mine leaves a great void in my hobby. Even my wife, who is more timid than I says quit being a baby about it and take the pictures! To some of us it is very hard and I am not a shy guy! My images, when I get enough nerve to press the shutter, also suffer. When I'm nervous to begin with and hurry, my skill is awful.
    I can offer this, if it helps, if you can bring along 1 or 2 more photographers with you, your confidence greatly increases.
    Good luck David.
    We need to get over this.
  17. Phillip Ino

    Phillip Ino

    Nov 26, 2007
    Yep, you just have to go out there and do it. But do it with confidence and a great big smile. That's how I do it.
  18. mcwong


    Nov 2, 2008
    very nice shot
  19. Photographing strangers can be daunting - to try and challenge myself I decided to try a while back, and the shot below was one of my best. I actually found it really rewarding, but whilst many people were not happy to be shot, there were plenty who were delighted to have their photo taken.
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